It’s funny how sometimes you have different conversations with friends and family which take you back to a certain time of your life. Last week, my friend and I were talking about our travels in our 20s, the freedom and adventures we had. I then got my travel diary and photos out from my year in France to see what I could remember and recommend to my parents whom are currently in Bordeaux.
This photo epitomises my life at 20, I was working and living in France as part of my degree and spent every weekend travelling, it really was a year of care free fun. I worked as an assistant and had a free apartment on the school site so my wage allowed me the freedom to travel. My other friends from uni were also in France so I visited them in places such as Strasbourg, Tours and Bordeaux during school breaks and then on weekends the foreign language assistants in our small town would travel together. The three of us would share a cheap hotel room, buying food from a supermarket and the obligatory bottle of Malibu for a pre night out aperitif. Although we were on a student budget, I’m mighty impressed when I look back in my book, we were away nearly every weekend, there’s pictures of us sipping champagne in Epernay, sitting in the parks of Dijon or just relaxing in a bar, but the best memories are of Paris. We went there often, staying in a cheap hotel, 10f each sharing a triple room and exploring the city by day and night. We did all the tourist spots and more off beat attractions, like the Père Lachaise cemetery to see the graves of the famous dead, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf among others. We embraced the culture, getting the cheap seats for high brow theatre (one friend was studying French lit) and visiting many art galleries. It was a very special time and I think we recognised and embraced that it was our time to enjoy our age and freedoms before we started careers and an adult life. I am so pleased that we did what we did, the memories have lasted a lifetime and that year helped give me the confidence and focus to be who I wanted to be.
I have travelled lots all over the world since my year in France but never lived abroad again. However, as I start to plan for the future I think there’s more travelling in me still to be done, I would love to do a teacher exchange when my children are grown up, I reckon I could just squeeze it in before I retire. Travel does broaden the mind and offer new opportunities and whilst I don’t need to relive the days of my youth, I’m keen to have the buzz of travelling and living abroad again.
I am a summer girl and so find winter the most difficult of the seasons, early winter brings the excitement and sparkle of Christmas but January and February can be cold, dark, long months. The quietness of the season means our little town feels like a ghost town, many independent shops shut up for a couple of months and road closures mean that we have been even more isolated than normal this year. I never quite feel myself in these months and this has been noticeable in the sunny, warmer days we’ve had this week which have made me feel so more alive, purposeful and productive. This is not to say that I’ve spent the last few months in a dark place, just a different place! We have been lucky this year, no Beast of the East (however I’m mindful that the bad snow last year was in March) and we have had some bright, crisp days. We have managed some lovely days out at the weekends, cycling in the forest, visiting a local animal sanctuary and long walks. I’ve had fun in the kitchen cooking some lovely family meals and perfecting the art of meringues often with a little helper or two. There’s also been time for life admin and to make a start on some projects. Yes we’ve been pottering on but the zest and energy of the spring months have been missing.
This week has been half term and a bright and warm week. Last weekend we spent a long weekend with my parents in Somerset, the highlight was the Splash World at a local holiday centre, with disco and rainbow slides (I loved them), water play area and pool. My children love the water and happily played whilst my parents watched. We’ve also had a session at our local sports centre called Inflatable fun, which was the Sports hall filled with a variety of inflatables, a simple but really fun idea. Wednesday was our only day together, just the 4 of us, so we went to the local forestry commission and hired bikes for a 2 hour ride in the forest, there is something so grounding and calming about being in nature. Today has seen us split up, Mr S and Little Man have gone to Grandad’s whilst Little Miss and I are at home. As I write this, I’m hosting 3 of her friends for a sleepover, they’ve ‘hung out’ at the park, we’ve made pizzas from scratch and created some lovely ice cream sundaes, there are now makeovers happening upstairs and then it will be film time with The Greatest Showman Singalong. I’m hoping for some sleep tonight as once our visitors leave in the morning, Little Miss and I have a little road trip to see my aunt and an old school friend before a very lazy Sunday. The PE kits, ironing and homework have all be done and we’re ready for the return to school on Monday, so there really is no reason not to simply rest and relax on Sunday.
As the lighter days develop and the warmth radiates us all, I’m looking forward to the coming months, we’ve been making plans during the winter and its nearly time for action!
Last week, I read an excellent article from the Financial Times by Tim Harford entitled My Digital Reboot. It was one of those articles which really resonated with me and had me examining my online behaviour. We live in a digital world and it’s an integral part of my professional and personal life, I am not going to stop using it. However I have noticed how my phone is always near and I spend too long scrolling through Twitter and Instagram. I get great inspiration from these sites but it’s too easy to start looking at something that leads to something else and suddenly the evening has disappeared. I am not going to delete my accounts, I enjoy the social network sites but I am going to remove them from my phone to stop the ease at which I browse. At the start of this year, I organised my week as part of a self care project (yes I’m a sucker for all the latest trends) for example, Sunday is house admin, Saturday blog writing so I’m planning to add a social network evening too.
This week I’ve minimised the use of my phone and enjoyed more creative projects and felt so much more refreshed and focused for it. There are apps which I will keep on my phone, my Spotify account as I love my music and podcasts, some photography apps, email, Parentmail, the school app and of course Scrabble which has always been one of my favourite way to spend a free 10 minutes. As well as spring cleaning my phone, I’m also going to keep it away from me, to keep it in my handbag or on my bureau at home and just use it when I purposefully want to rather than as a distraction. I realise I’m now the role model for my children, I want them to have a mobile as a phone and not to be an essential part of their being.
Its that magic moment I’ve been waiting and anticipating all day. I am finally able to sit down and finish the book I’ve been thinking about constantly today, will I be able to solve who the murdered woman was before the climatic ending?
Postcript, no I didn’t guess the identity of the woman or the murderer which is unlike me. This book is The New Mrs Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan and it is so well written with a rich tapestry of characters and background stories coming together to build an excellent thriller.